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A man leaves a polling station at the Sunset Lakes Community Center as voting takes place Tuesday in a special election for the seat of Florida’s 20th Congressional District. | Rebecca Blackwell / AP Photo

TALLAHASSEE – Lawyers representing national Republican groups use the arrest of a Donald Trump supporter and suspected election fraud in one of Florida’s biggest GOP strongholds to defend a controversial election bill proposed by Governor Ron DeSantis.

At the end of last week, lawyers working for the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senate Committee asked a judge overseeing a court challenge to the controversial Florida voting law to take note of three incidents of electoral fraud that occurred. in Florida for the past two years. The court record has not been reported before.

One of the cases cited involved a woman in central Florida who did not plead any challenge in December for submitting false voter registration forms on behalf of registered voters. When authorities first arrested Cheryl Hall in March 2020, reports said she posted photos of herself on Facebook with DeSantis, Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Florida Attorney General. Ashley Moody and Sean Hannity. The New York Times reported that she had life-size cutouts of Trump and former First Lady Melania Trump in her home window.

“Fraud is fraud, no matter who commits it or which party they prefer,” said Chris Hartline, spokesperson for the NRSC. “Our goal is maximum participation and zero fraud. That’s why we are fighting Democrats in court to defend the common sense electoral integrity measures put in place by Republican legislatures across the country. “

Voting rights and civil rights groups have filed a legal challenge against the voting law passed by the Republican-controlled Florida legislature and the case is expected to be tried in Florida federal court in late January .

The measure imposed new limits on drop boxes and mail-in ballots, including a two-ballot limit on the number of mail-in ballots a person could collect and hand over on behalf of elderly, sick voters. and disabled. The limit does not apply to immediate family members.

Democrats scoffed at Republicans by pointing out that their own members had violated election laws. State Senator Gary Farmer, a Democrat and Broward County lawyer who has vigorously opposed Florida’s new election law, said the Republicans’ filing “is not even relevant or important.”

“The ultimate irony here is that the whole ‘Stop the Steal’ movement is actually the group that is breaking election law and trying to suppress the vote counting system,” Farmer said.

Florida was just one of many GOP-controlled states that passed voting restrictions in the wake of Trump’s loss and his unsubstantiated complaints about voter fraud, though not so restrictive than the laws passed in Georgia and Texas.

Republicans have claimed they are enacting the law to avoid potential problems in the future. But a series of internal emails and texts obtained by POLITICO showed GOP lawmakers drafted the legislation. with the help of Florida’s top Republican Party attorney – and that a crackdown on mail-in vote demands was seen as a way for the GOP to erase the advantage Democrats had in mail-in voting in elections from 2020.

The League of Women Voters of Florida and the NAACP, along with other groups, argue that the law unfairly harms elderly, disabled and minority voters. The case has caught the attention of more than a dozen Democratic attorneys general as well as President Joe Biden’s administration.

Lawyers for the GOP groups who intervened in the federal lawsuit attempted to present evidence to justify the law’s justification, even though lawmakers did not really cite any incidents pushing for the bill.

U.S. Chief Justice Mark Walker, who is overseeing the case, blocked the presentation of a December report prepared by a professor at Florida International University early last week. The report highlighted several examples of alleged electoral fraud, including the recent arrest of four people from retirement mecca The Villages, accused of voting with multiple votes in the 2020 presidential election. The report also included cited a case where a central Florida city council election was overturned after two illegal votes were discovered.

The pending federal trial will take place just as lawmakers are expected to consider additional election-related bills during the Florida legislative session that began on Tuesday. DeSantis wants to spend nearly $ 6 million in the coming year to create a new election police to investigate voter fraud and other violations of election law. Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls have said they are open to considering the proposal, but neither leader has endorsed it either.


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